Robot helps 94-year-old Italian grandmother live independently at home
EU invests in new technology to support silver generation
At 94, Grandma Lea could not live alone anymore, but she wanted to stay at home. She still does thanks to the EU-funded GiraffPlus (@giraffplus) system, which uses a combination of wearable devices, sensors throughout the home and a mobile robot to assist older people in their homes, and to connect them to family, friends and healthcare professionals who need to keep an eye on the person’s health and activities. The system should be in commercial production by the end of 2015. The EU market for robots and devices assisting elderly people is estimated to reach €13 billion by 2016.
“People ask why I don’t just live with my daughter, but she has grandchildren of her own and many new responsibilities. With this valuable assistant that I call ‘Mr Robin’ I’m more relaxed about the years ahead, and so are my children and grandchildren”, explains 94-year-old Lea Mina Ralli, also known as Grandma – ‘nonna’ in Italian – Lea. She has been using the GiraffPlus system for 5 months and often writes about ‘Mr Robin’ on her blog (in Italian). In our ageing society, many elderly people are in the same situation, and robotics can offer a safe and affordable solution.
€3 million of EU funding was invested in GiraffPlus to test how robots and other devices could help older people live safer, more independent lives. The sensors are designed to detect activities like cooking, sleeping or watching television and monitor health – blood pressure or sugar levels for example. They also allow the person’s caregivers to monitor their wellbeing remotely and to check for falls. A robot moves around the home and allows family, friends and carers to virtually visit the person.
Silver generation and economy
Vice-President of the European Commission @NeelieKroesEU, responsible for the Digital Agenda, says: “None of us is getting any younger. But we all want to know that we will not lose our dignity, respect and independence as we age. The EU is investing in new technology that can support the silver generation – adding not just years to our life, but also life to our years!”
Europe’s over-65s have a disposable income of over €3,000 billion and much of this will be ploughed back into the caring economy. According to Stephen Von Rump, CEO of Giraff Technologies AB, the EU market for robots and other devices assisting our elderly will reach €13 billion by 2016.
“GiraffPlus will be in 15 homes by the end of 2014”, says Amy Loutfi, the project coordinator based at Örebro University, Sweden. “So far we have had six homes in Europe – two homes each in Spain, Sweden and Italy – that have lived with the GiraffPlus system. We currently are in the middle of the evaluations, but we see that various aspects of the system are appreciated differently by the different users. This goes to show that a one-size fits all approach to technology at home is not necessarily the best, and technology should be both adaptable and tailored to user’s needs”.
Current plans are to put the system into commercial production next year, based on an upfront fee and monthly subscriptions that would make it competitive when set alongside increasingly expensive full-time care.
The GiraffPlus consortium includes public and private partners from Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and UK.
The European Commission strongly supports independent living through the use of new technologies – including robotics – as part of the Digital Agenda strategy @DigitalAgendaEU. On top of the new research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 #H2020, two important initiatives are dedicated to taking new technologies to the market and homes and to embedding them in our systems for health and social care.
The Active Assisted Living Joint Programme (@AAL_JP) is an initiative driven by the EU’s member states for applied research on ICT products and services for ageing well. Over a hundred projects have been funded since 2008 and it should be continued under H2020: €25 million of EU funding is foreseen in 2014 and the same amount again in 2015.
The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (@EIP_AHA) is a multi-stakeholder partnership to implement innovative ICT-driven technologies for active and healthy ageing at European scale, and to remove barriers that prevent their deployment. One of its six Action Groups focuses on independent living, while others deal with related topics like the prevention and early detection of falls and age-friendly communities and environments.
Funding available under Horizon 2020
Through Horizon 2020 #H2020, many more projects on independent living, including robotics, will be funded. One of the focus areas of Societal Challenge 1 – Health, demographic change and wellbeing is “personalising health and care” (PHC). It notably supports citizen empowerment through self-management of health and disease, health promotion and disease prevention.
The PHC calls have a total budget of €549.3 million for 2014 and €537 million for 2015. Two specific challenges are specifically devoted to robotics (PHC 10-2014 and PHC 19-2014) and two other are dedicated to ICT solutions for independent living (PHC 20-2014 – PHC 21-2015).
Read more about EU support to ageing well with ICT.
Read more about EU support to robotics – @RoboticsEU and find information on the public-private partnership in robotics between the European Commission and the robotics academia and industry to boost research and innovation in this strategic field and on the funding opportunities for 2014-2015 (ICT-23-2014 and ICT-24-2015 to be published on 15 October 2014 TBC).
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